Manufacturing in Valencia County is as strong as ever, according to leaders at Pro-Fab, Inc. in Bosque Farms, and Sisneros Bros. Manufacturing in Belen.
“The economy for prototype manufacturing is the strongest I’ve seen it in 11 years,” said Pro-Fab vice president Robert Caldwell. “I have not seen the economy as strong as it is now as it relates to demand for this sort of product. Our backlog has been booked all year. If we were to accept no more orders as of today, it would be the best year we’ve had in 10 years.”
Andres Sisneros, third-generation spokesperson of Sisneros Bros., agreed, saying, “Right now, it’s trending pretty strong. You never know exactly where it’s headed, but we feel confident we’re going to have a few prosperous years ahead of us.”
Both companies help the local economy while providing services internationally with large corporations.
Pro-Fab’s clientele includes Boeing and Sandia Labs, with most of their product going out-of-state. Caldwell said a lot of this growth has come from their focus on growing their customer base. Their clients are more confident with their product and the market.
Sisneros Bros. has worked with Samsung, Walmart and the Navy. About 85 percent of their business is done outside of New Mexico, which they say is proof that people are willing to pay for their products anywhere.
However, the two companies’ products differ. While the Sisneros Bros. focus primarily on duct work, Pro-Fab’s work spans from airplane parts to steel carts and work stations. Still, neither have struggled much economically in recent years in Valencia County.
Perhaps the secret to both companies’ success can be found in their staying power. One might think that two businesses with so many out-of-state customers would be tempted to leave, but that’s not the case in the manufacturing world.
The Sisneros Bros. formed in 1985, and Pro-Fab formed in 1992. Though both companies have passed through multiple leaders — the Sisnernos passing the torch from generation to generation, and Pro-Fab’s founders selling the company in 2007 — they’ve stayed in the community with a staff which rarely changes.
For the Sisneros Bros., it’s hard to imagine relocating somewhere else. This is their home. Thirteen of their 34 employees are family and most have grown up in Valencia County. They boast a very low turnover rate, with most employees making a career with the company.
“We’ve had family around here for more than 300 years,” said Fernando Sisneros. “We’re family-structured. Everybody here is treated well.”
Andres said there are other benefits to staying in New Mexico in addition to being close to home. The export rate is among the highest in the nation, which can be beneficial to truckers and the manufacturing industry. When they have had to hire more workers, they’ve been able to find solid candidates in the community.
Caldwell also credited the hard-working culture of small communities as a primary reason for staying in Valencia County.
“A lot of us at this company live in this area,” said Caldwell. “You have this rural type of setting, and I think that’s to our advantage. A lot of people grew up here, and they’ve developed this type of work ethic that comes from a smaller community. As a company, we don’t have any intention of leaving this area.”
With 24 employees, Pro-Fab works with a slightly smaller staff than the Sisneros Bros., but they’re just as loyal. The average employee has been with the company for five years, including one who has been at Pro-Fab for more than 20 years.
Though business is good, it isn’t without it’s own unique challenges. Caldwell said finding good, skilled workers can be hard. That challenge is a result of fewer young people being interested in learning blue-collar trades.
According to U.S. News & World Report, there are more than 397,000 job openings in manufacturing. Since New Mexico has a small population, companies such as Pro-Fab have a small pool to choose from.
“There’s so much emphasis put on having so many doctors and so many lawyers and so many professionals,” said Caldwell. “What happened was we saw a sharp decline in the blue collar industry. All year long, we’ve been looking for machinists, we’ve been looking for welders and we’ve been looking for mechanical engineers. It’s difficult to fill those spots because there’s not a huge emphasis put on those skills. We have spots to fill right now — today.”
Caldwell explained they look for potential employees with the right attitude and aptitude for the job. Once they find the right fit, Pro-Fab ensures the employee is comfortable and wants to stay. If the employee doesn’t have the necessary skill set immediately, they can develop those skills.
The theme throughout the manufacturing industry has been employee appreciation. Despite the different challenges Pro-Fab and Sisneros Bros. face, they place a high value on their employees.
“It always goes back to the people,” said Caldwell.